Monday, August 12, 2013

Why are you still here?

New site.
New blog.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rokuzayemon is moving, please update your links, RSS etc.

Behold my new website. Tremble at its blog and despair.

Almost all the contents of this here blog ( have been transferred to the new site. will no longer be updated. Although I may get round to providing links to the new location of popular posts.

Update. I am going to repost this every month or so to remind your feed readers etc.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Transcriptions and translations

Last year a librarian in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek discovered previously unknown homilies by Origen of Alexandria. Alex Poulos, a student at the Catholic University of America, offers transcriptions and translations of some of the new materials.

We must be told

Why is Stephen Merchant now doing advertising for Westpac's small business services? Does Ricky Gervais know?

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Attack on Kirribilli

On 26th January 2013 the peaceful Sydney suburb of Kirribilli was assaulted by land, sea and air.  This resulted in no loss of life for the defenders and no change to their system of government. The assault was no doubt commanded by the military dictator of New South Wales.* In other news the government of Queensland put tanks into the streets of Brisbane, doubtless to quell unrest, as part of the imposition of martial law.

*Actually Professor Marie Bashir is a lovely lady, it is just that the photo of her in military uniform is irresistible.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A few years ago this would have been about text messages (or: Another Reason to steer clear of Facebook)

Oh yes please. I would like the "comedians" on the misnamed Footy Show* to remove a photograph of my child from the internet to make fun of it by comparing it to some cabbage eared loon. Sign me up to Facebook AT ONCE!

Yes I know it's David Knox – who has never expressed a non-standard opinion on anything – but any stick will do with which to beat the Farcebook. If you prefer, here is The Australian.

*Given the Australian predilection for Rugby League and AFL (q.v.) it should be The Handy Show.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Beer and sausages

Here in Australia, for some crazy reason, if you look for sausages you can easily find something containing a dead cow. No, my dears, those are beef sausages. Sausages have to contain pork.

That is something this bloke clearly understood.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The end of the Middle Ages (again)

The last Beguine, Marcella Pattyn, has recently died. This being the Economist there is the usual oogedy-boogedy about the Middle Ages, sexism, heretic burnign and so on, but it is an interesting article all the same.
These places were not convents, but beguinages, and the women in them were not nuns, but Beguines. In these communities, which sprang up spontaneously in and around the cities of the Low Countries from the early 13th century, women led lives of prayer, chastity and service, but were not bound by vows. They could leave; they made their own rules, without male guidance; they were encouraged to study and read, and they were expected to earn their keep by working, especially in the booming cloth trade. They existed somewhere between the world and the cloister, in a state of autonomy which was highly unusual for medieval women and highly disturbing to medieval men.
Rest in peace.

UPDATE: Obituary from The Daily Telegraph (UK).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mickey Mouse Trap

The Walt Disney Company takes a vigorous approach to the protection of its copyrights. So it was a  little surprising to see who made the mousetrap I was using to deal with a recent rodent infestation.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Funky book cover

Its ten minutes past six in the Bavarian State Library on 10th September 2012.

I think it's time to go home. (Apparently I am late to this party).

Monday, April 1, 2013

The St Edmund Campion Missal

The Chant Café posts a review of the St Edmund Campion Missal – a people's Missal for the Extraordinary form of the Mass.
Simply put, the Saint Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal from Corpus Christi Watershed is a brilliant new Sunday/Feast day hand-missal for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is skillfully edited, and without exaggeration, it is one of the most beautiful modern books I have seen or used. It is a full missal and hymnal, containing not only the Sunday propers and readings in both Latin and English, but also the complete Kyriale, six versions of the Credo, nearly 20 pages of congregational chants for use throughout the year, over 150 pages of orthodox, traditional congregational hymns, various prayers for private prayer before, during and after Mass, and for other sacraments and rites in the Extraordinary Form (such as marriage, confirmation, benediction and funerals).
No word on whether it has supplements of national propers in other English speaking countries, like the Baronius Press hand Missal.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Descendit ad inferos

3 "Descended into hell"
One can try to deal with problems either by denying their existence or by facing up to them. The first method is the more comfortable one, but only the second leads anywhere. Instead of pushing the question aside, then, should we not learn to see that this article of faith, which liturgically is associated with Holy Saturday in the Church's year, is particularly close to our day and is to a particular degree the experience of our [twentieth] century? On Good Friday our gaze remains fixed on the crucified Christ, but Holy Saturday is the day of the "death of God", the day that expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him. "God is dead and we have killed him." this saying of Nietzsche's belongs linguistically to the tradition of Christian Passiontide piety; it expresses the content of Holy Saturday, "descended into hell".
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius (2004).
Part Two: Jesus Christ, II The Development of Faith in Christ in the Christological Articles of the Creed, 3 "Descended into hell", (p. 294).

Friday, March 29, 2013

An Allegory

I have this brother. He's very overbearing. Our mother arranged for us to receive three delicious meals every day. They are delicious and nutritious. The balanced diet everyone is always talking about. Nevertheless, every day at every meal – EVERY DAY, EVERY MEAL, WITHOUT FAIL – when these meals arrive from the delivery service, he just throws them away and goes to get cheap, takeaway food. He never asks me. I don't think it even occurs to him that I – or for that matter our mother – might object. She hardly ever raises her voice in protest. She is worried she will drive him away. It is true that sometimes the food Mum has arranged is an acquired taste. You have to get used to it. Above all you have to take it all in, meal after meal, and then you begin to understand the subtlety of the flavours and you see the larger picture. In any case the food never tastes *nasty*, it is just not what we are used to. And it is always very nutritious and exactly what our mother planned for us.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Pride of Place

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,  General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2003).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Greek teaching in the Unided Stades

Rod Decker provides A Recommended Bibliography for Beginning Greek Students. He lists different kinds of books (texts, grammars, lexicons, concordances) etc. by year of study. For a third year student he recommends as a lexicon the following:

Liddell & Scott (the standard lexicon for classical Greek; it does include NT material). “Liddell,” BTW, is pronounced “little” (not “li-dell”).
The surname of the co-author of this lexicon, Henry George Liddell (the father of Alice in Wonderland, believe it or not), is given the pronunciation  /ˈlɪdəl/ by Wikipedia (at least it did when I wrote this) not /ˈlɪtl̩/. I was puzzled by this apparent typo before I realised Decker is relying on the voiced American T.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Remember Anamnesis

Behold the homepage of Anamnesis, the bulletin of the liturgical commission of the Polish Bishops' conference. ("Anamnsis" at the top of the page is simply a typo, it is of course simply the Greek word for the memorial sacrifice of Num 10:10, alluded to in Lk 22:19 and 1 Cor 11:25).

In 2004 I discovered that the editio typica tertia of Missale Romanum included some new saints in the calendar. This is the Universal Calendar, also called the General Calendar. Local churches at the diocesan or national level are expected to modify the calendar usually by adding local saints or sometimes by increasing the importance of the celebration.

This being the Missal – to be used at Mass – it does not have texts for the Liturgy of the Hours (the "Divine Office", often simply just the "Office"). Using as a search text the collect (which is the same as the concluding prayer in the Office) of one of the additions to the calendar, I discovered that the Polish Bishops had put the Latin texts of additions to the Divine Office online. Additions to the liturgical books are published in the journal of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Notitiae which was not, and is not, published online. However all the decrees from the Congregation pertaining to the Universal Church, including such additions to the calendar are, as a matter of course, published in Latin in Anamnesis.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Preaching and the Biblical Languages

The Rev. Gerald Ambulance discusses the problem of preaching.
Greek is another good time-killer. Try this kind of thing: "Now the word translated 'preaching' here is the Greek word kerygma. And that comes from the verb kerysso, meaning 'to preach'. So when St Paul says 'preaching', what that word really means is 'preaching'." (Stephen Tomkins, My Ministry Manual by Rev. Gerald Ambulance, p.31).
Rod Decker, Preaching and the Biblical Languages: Garnish or Entrée Mellon or Mantra? has a more serious approach.

Some extracts.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A really bad week

On Sunday 11th July 2010 the Archbishop of Buenos Aires attacked the Bill, then before the Argentine Senate, to create homosexual marriage. The Archbishop described it as a "destructive attack on God's plan." The President of Argentina hit back the following day.
Mrs. Kirchner harshly criticized church leaders on Monday, saying that their discourse on the issue resembled “the times of the Crusades” and that they failed to acknowledge how socially liberal Argentina had become.
Another theme of Cristina Kirchner's presidency has been demanding that the UK hand over the Falkland Islands to Argentina, regardless of the wishes of the inhabitants.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Breaking news from Australia: The Papacy Returns to Italy!

On Thursday morning I learnt that white smoke was appearing, from a text message sent from England. At first I flicked between television channels. Among Australian terrestrial channels there was a live broadcast from St Peter's Square on Channel 7 Sunrise and on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). I could also get Sky News, Fox News and CNN. The ABC seemed to have the cleanest picture (fewer annoying graphics) so I settled in to that channel. Then they hauled on Paul Collins, Papal historian and ex-priest. Men leave the priesthood for different reasons but my general experience is they are damaged goods. They are not a likely source of balanced and informative comment.
In 2001 Collins resigned from priestly ministry because of a dispute with the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over his book Papal Power. 
In other words he left in a fit of pique.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Jesuit Pope

Francis, Bishop of Rome, Servant of the Servants of God, is a member of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits.

Let's watch Cardinal Tauran again (1:06:46), followed by the Pope (1:16:45). You should be able to drop the scrubber quite easily.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Qui sibi novum nomen imposuit

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam: Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Georgium Marium Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum.
With these words did Jean Louis Cardinal Tauran announce the election of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio SJ, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, about 8pm on 13th March 2013.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reigniting the momentum in my collection of mixed metaphors

In 1923 A. E. Housman published a review of F. A. Simpson's Louis Napoleon and the Recovery of France 1848-1856. In the course of the review (be it noted – of a book written by one of his colleagues at Trinity College, Cambridge) he criticises "the slang with which Mr Simpsons now and then defiles his pen".
Here too, as everywhere, are the daisies and dandelions of contemporary metaphor. Till I read p. 241 I did not know that a storm could have an aftermath nor that an aftermath could reach a throne; but I have since found the same blend of meteorology and agriculture in a novel of Mr Hugh Walpole's—though the aftermath is there a 'faint' on and so no throne is threatened.* 
Compared to that Housman might regard the following as (to defile my keyboard with slang) shooting fish in a barrel. A while ago I mentioned the bargain offer by the SMH of three metaphors for the price of one. Today you can add some unique (let us hope) pieces to your collection.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A self-depreciating smile

Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son (1846-1848), chapter xxxvii 'More warnings than one' (first published in number xii of the serial, September 1847), page 554 in the Oxford World's Classics edition.
Edith suffered him to proceed. She looked at him now. As he bent forward, to be nearer, with the utmost show of delicacy and respect, and with his teeth persuasively arrayed, in a self-depreciating smile, she felt as if she could have struck him dead. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mgr Richard Schuler: A chronicle of the reform

I had never heard of him but Mgr Richard Schuler is a big wheel among proponents of a traditional liturgy in the United States. Alexander Sample, the new Archbishop of Portland, specifically mentions him in an interview with the Catholic World Report.

In 1988 he published a long article on the history of the reform of sacred music, especially in the United States. It was reprinted as an appendix to a festschrift published in his honour in 1990: Cum Angelis Canere: Essays on Sacred Music and Pastoral Liturgy in Honour of Richard J. Schuler Robert A. Skeris, ed. A Chronicle of the Reform [pdf] can be found at the website of St Cecilia Schola Cantorum in Auburn, Alabama.

It does not have the satirical verve of Klaus Gamber or László Dobszay (scroll down), but it is a good read.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: the word for blessed!

[The actual sedes vacans, courtesy of Charles Cole].

At the time of writing, the Vatican website still has a separate page on the election of Pope Benedict XVI (if that link dies you can go here).
Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam: Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Josephum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI.
Now that is not what Jorge Cardinal Medina Estévez actually said.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A reason to go to Canberra

Further to the story from two weeks ago last year about a beer from a massive internationa brewery (named after the state of Victoria) winning a prize at the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show the small brewers are striking back with the Small Brewer's Beer Festival.

"People have no idea how extremely competitive and ruthless the beer business can be, it really is war. And the big breweries don't take any prisoners. So instead of competing with them directly at other beer festivals we thought we would hold our own and just not invite them."
It's on 9th March. So plenty of notice then.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

To Mars, in an RV

Space exploration is going a little Heinleinian.

Tito Wants to send Married Couple on Mars flyby mission

Monday, March 4, 2013

An illuminated history of Ampleforth

The porch of the North Transept of Ampleforth Abbey is connected by a corridor which leads past the monks' refectory into the Central Building of the school. At the beginning of the corridor there is now displayed a history of Monasticism in general and Ampleforth in particular in an illuminated calligraphic manuscript.

Until I read it in 2006, I did not know that Dom Anselm Bolton was the last priest to be tried under the penal laws and had never heard of Dom Sigebert Buckley. So I typed it up for the ages.

It is a good read if stylistically clumsy. "The monks elected their own Abbot instead of the General Chapter, all monks even if they were not in Ampleforth or in the parishes took orders from their Abbot."

That sentence means the General Chapter of the English Benedictine Congregation no longer appointed Priors of Ampleforth, but instead the monks of Ampleforth elected an Abbot for themselves, and that all Ampleforth monks, wheresoever they might be (on the parishes, at St Benet's Hall), are under the Abbot's authority. It does not mean that Abbots ordain priests. "Took orders" is not, I think, a Catholic expression but Anglican.

"Benedictine monks played a major part in the conversion of England to Christianity and the formation of the Church of England". This means the Church in England, it does not mean the institution of which The Queen is Governor in which monks were far from welcome.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A nice loaf of whirlwind-flour bread

Lest you think I only pick on the silly things said by Australian journalists here is a paragraph by Dan Hodges (son of Glenda Jackson, no I can't quite believe it either) in the (London) Daily Telegraph. He is discussing the consequences of the Eastleigh by-election of 28th February at which the UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidate came second, beating the Conservative and Labour candidates. In American terms that is like beating the GOP and the Democrats, in Australian terms like beating the Liberals and the ALP. When these sorts of thing usually happen UKIP is seen to be the spoiler for the Conservatives, in this case it is fair to say it is the other way around.

It was expected, Hodges means to say, that another party would benefit from dissatisfaction with Conservative policy, but that UKIP would reap these benefits was not expected.

However, that is not what he actually says:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sede Vacante

Visit to the Pontifical Major Roman Seminary, on the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Trust, Lectio Divina of Pope Benedict XVI, Friday 8th February 2013.
The second term: inheritance. It is a very important word in the Old Testament, where Abraham is told that his seed will inherit the earth, and this was always the promise for his descendents. You will have the earth, you will be heirs of the earth. In the New Testament, this word becomes a word for us; we are heirs, not of a specific country, but of the land of God, of the future of God. Inheritance is something of the future, and thus this word tells us above all that as Christians we have a future, the future is ours, the future is God’s. Thus, being Christians, we know that the future is ours and the tree of the Church is not a tree that is dying but a tree that constantly puts out new shoots. Therefore we have a reason not to let ourselves be upset, as Pope John said, by the prophets of doom who say: well, the Church is a tree that grew from the mustard seed, grew for two thousand years, now she has time behind her, it is now time for her to die. No. The Church is ever renewed, she is always reborn. The future belongs to us. Of course, there is a false optimism and a false pessimism. A false pessimism tells us that the epoch of Christianity is over. No: it is beginning again! The false optimism was the post-Council optimism, when convents closed, seminaries closed and they said “but... nothing, everything is fine!”.... No! Everything is not fine. There are also serious, dangerous omissions and we have to recognize with healthy realism that in this way things are not all right, it is not all right when errors are made. However, we must also be certain at the same time that if, here and there, the Church is dying because of the sins of men and women, because of their non-belief, at the same time she is reborn. The future really belongs to God: this is the great certainty of our life, the great, true optimism that we know. The Church is the tree of God that lives for ever and bears within her eternity and the true inheritance: eternal life. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Reading at Mass

Jeffrey Tucker, How to Read Liturgically.
The problem is the manner in which people read the scripture in liturgy. The instruction books that are published by the major houses warn against reading plainly and solemnly with a steady tone. These manual urge them to bring some personality to the task, to elevate the voice on the important parts, make the reading more life-like and vibrant, and even to make eye contact with the people in the pews. They want long pauses between sentences and for every sentence to come across like a major declaration that sears itself into the ears and minds of the listeners. They try to make the text reach us in a new way.
I hope he does not want the text to reach us in the same old way. He has a point about "bringing some personality". I remember a priest reading the Gospel with a full range of voices. I was only able to confirm the passage (Jn 21:1-19) because I was able to remember the date precisely (4th May 2003, 3rd Sunday of Easter). Otherwise I only remember the tone.

Monday, February 25, 2013

"In the dusty, damp or dismal purlieus of second-hand bookshops"

Theodore Dalrymple usually writes pessimistic pieces on the corruption of modern society. As a prison doctor he cornered the market in vignettes of the prison infirmary which expressed contemporary abdications of personal responsibility, laziness, fecklessness and cruelty.

He also likes second-hand bookshops.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A winner for teetotallers

Late last year*  the William Bull Brewery of New South Wales won the Grand Champion trophy at the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show with its India Pale Ale. It is described as a "limited release". So limited you can't buy it anywhere.

Mind you:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On the usefulness of Latin

I am shocked at what I am about to do: post a link to something from an Australian newspaper – from the Sydney Boring Herald no less – and not simply to mock it.

Latin helps journalist get scoop on Pope

An Italian journalist who beat the world's media on Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign got the scoop on the utterly unexpected news thanks to her knowledge of Latin.
It's even a reprint from the AFP, bene ego nunquam.

At the end of the article, the journalist's boss remarks "This is a strong argument for culture in training future journalists". I'll say. Take the following story:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From the Maronite Heritage Centre

I have been a couple of times to the Maronite Heritage Centre in the grounds of St Joseph's Cathedral in Redfern, the seat of the Maronite Bishop of Australia. However on both occasions the centre was being used for exequies: a mercy meal (held after a requiem) on the first occasion and a mahfil (condolence of the family before a funeral) on the second. I could not spend time poring over the displays. They hold a wealth of information on the history of the Maronites in Australia, but also a brief account of the history of Lebanon and its people. I transcribed the following from the display for that section. It may help to note the following two points: (1) Modern Lebanese – particularly Christians – often identify themselves as "Phoenician" in preference to "Arab". (2) Carthage – the toughest opponent of Republican Rome – was founded from the Phoenician city of Tyre, hence Punic (i.e. Phoenician) Wars.
For thousands of years, the Phoenicians lived in the area which is today Lebanon, and in surrounding areas, such as northern Israel, and adjoining parts of Syria. In addition, the Phoenicians colonized Cyprus and the Mediterranean, founding cities in Spain, France, and Italy and throughout Northern Africa.
They were a Cananite people. However, invasions fragmented the Canaanites from about 1200 BC. The Canaanites in cities such as Byblos, Beirut, Sidon and Tyre, and in the mountains behind these cities, became known as the Phoenicians. These active, industrious city states maintained trade routes extending overland through Turkey and Syria, and threading the Mediterranean in their ships. As far back as 3000 BC, the people of Byblos had traded Lebanese cedar with the ancient Egyptians.
It is no coincidence that 1200 BC is the approximate date of the Exodus. The invasions which fragmented the peace-loving (see below) Canaanites were by this lot. And I nearly forgot these two: here and here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chant Café has good word for promoters of Liturgical pop

Music that Broadens the Mind and Spirit
Over the years, I’ve had many people say to me, when discovering that I’m a Catholic musician, some version of the following: “I’ve learned to wince whenever I see that a chosen hymn was composed after 1965. I shut my book and try to brace myself until it goes away.”
I’m supposed to agree with this point of view, and I do sympathize with the feeling because I felt this way for years. But more and more, I find that these sorts of comments bother me. Most of the musicians singing post-1965 material are doing their best to make a contribution, and loathing their output can tend towards cultivating divisive antipathies.
Few of these musicians have any idea how many people are rubbed the wrong way by varieties of pop music at Mass. Plus, it seems like an odd demand that Mass should only have music written between, say 1850 and 1965. In the long history of the faith, that is a very small slice of time.
More substantially, the debate over hymns completely misses the essential point that has become more obvious over the last few years. The truth is this: the hymn war distracts from the core issue, which is whether we will sing what the liturgy is asking to be sung or whether we will sing something else. The Mass assigns texts throughout the year for the precise parts of the liturgy where hymns are often inserted.
The solution of course is the Roman Gradual (after all, this is the Chant Café) and use of the Mass propers, not the hymn sandwich.

[The Mass propers are those bits in the Mass which change from day to day. Here it refers to those parts sung by the choir or people (not the priest), printed in a book called the Roman Gradual. They are invariably replaced by a hymn or simply spoken.]

Monday, February 18, 2013

Life on Mars

Apparently not as easy as it might be.

"Absolutely, the astronauts can live in this environment. It’s not so different from what astronauts might experience on the International Space Station. The real question is if you add up the total contribution to the astronaut’s total dose on a Mars mission can you stay within your career limits as you accumulate those numbers. Over time we will get those numbers."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Assorted links on the resignation of Pope Benedict xvi

I don't want to keep putting up posts on this. It is a little depressing. I want people digging this out of some memory crystal of the first 100 centuries of the internet to say "why did he need to name the Pope in the title of this post? only one Pope in the third millennium resigned".

So this post will serve as the dumping ground for any more stories I come across.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Msgr Gromier and the Restored Holy Week

I have for years been pushing the conférence of Msgr Léon Gromier, a Master of Ceremonies for Pius xii, on the restoration of Holy Week from the fifties. That was all I knew about him. Fr Christopher Smith provides more information as well as discussing Gromier's arguments.

One of the more interesting parts of the talk is when [Gromier] takes issue with the adjective solemn as applied in the 1955 Reform.  He writes, “The solemnity of liturgical services is not an optional decoration; it is of the nature of the service … Outside of this, so-called solemnity is not an amplifying enticement, to impress and score the goal … we made a prodigious use of the word solemn even for necessarily or intrinsically solemn acts.  We use words, believing that we can put more solemnity into the Procession of Palms than into that of Candlemas, more solemnity into the Procession of Maundy Thursday than that of Good Friday (abolished as we shall see).  Always on the same slippery slope, we learn that the Passion of Good Friday is sung solemnly, as if it could be sung in another fashion.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Scraping the barrel on Pope coverage

The last Pope to resign was Gregory xii who did so on 4th July 1415. But he did so when there were two other claimants (a Benedict xiii and a John xxiii, not to be confused with Pietro Francisco Orsini or Angelo Roncalli) and so it was not immediately clear whether the real Pope was resigning or was being eased out (as the other two claimants were). So far as I know the only other resignation was St Celestine v who did so on 13th December 1294. Pope Benedict visited St Celestine's tomb in July 2010, and left his Pallium there. Anyway those are some facts.

I thought factoids were trivial facts. I was wrong. They are things presented as fact but actually false – such as the sowing of salt into the ruins of Carthage (didn't happen, made up I believe in the 20th century).

Five factoids about Popes and their Appointment.

Edward Peters asks When will the Conclave start?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Pope and the PM: Compare and contrast

On 30th January 2013 Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, announced that the next general election for the Commonwealth Parliament will be on September 14th.

That's a wait of 227 days.

On February 11th Pope Benedict xvi announced that he was renouncing the Papacy with effect from 8pm on 28th February (6am on 1st March in Sydney).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The fad of folk music

A while ago the Chant Café posted a link to an essay by Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo C.S.J. at the Catholic News Agency on Church Music and the Fad of Folk Style, the following week they published a sequel. The essays are rather disjointed: more like a collection of useful quotes for such an essay than the completed work. But they do contain some zingers.

‘Folk’ style in church music is amply represented in The Music Missal (OCP), a flimsy, unattractive, and disposable handbook, which enjoys widespread use and influence. It contains other music like Ordinaries of the Mass, Reformed Protestant hymnody, and Gregorian chants. In no way does this ‘folk’ style, a misnomer, resemble authentic folk music. Whereas genuine folk songs were written by the community and were transmitted by the oral tradition, this material has been written by individuals. Genuine folk songs have a simple, limited melodic range as well as simple rhythm with little or no accompaniment. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

MUSTARD in space

In 1957 Arthur C. Clarke published a collection of loosely related stories in Tales from the White Hart. From the blurb to a recent edition:
Although written, as the author informs us in his Introduction to the 1969 edition, in such diverse locations as New York, Miami, Columbo and Sydney there is something inherently English about these stories. London's famed Fleet Street district has changed dramatically in the five decades since the collection's first appearance as a Ballantine paperback original… and, of course, many of the regulars of the White Hart (based on the White Horse pub on Fetter Lane) are no longer with us. But the White Hart's most prominent raconteur  Harry Purvis can still be found propping up the bar and regaling us all once again with tales of quirky and often downright eccentric scientists and inventors.
Some sense of the atmosphere of Clarke's stories – and the real life organisations on which they were based – can be got from Poking fun at Britain's Moon Men at

Friday, February 8, 2013

The non-existent taboo against composing new Gregorian chants

It is obvious to anyone who attends a Catholic liturgy that despite repeated attempts by those in authority Gregorian chant is far from being "given pride of place in liturgical services". One problem is that it is not a form of music that can be easily and readily played by ordinary musicians. It requires specialist training. Another problem is that the chants themselves are complicated. Many of them can really only be sung by a choir. One way to overcome this was the Graduale simplex in usum minorum ecclesiarum. As its full title indicates, it was meant for the use of Churches too small to sustain a full Gregorian choir. Judging by the present situation that would be pretty much all Churches, including most Cathedrals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"The more barbarous Latinity of a Rhabanus Maurus" : On Ecclesiastical Latin

When taught to translate English into Greek or Latin (something I was never very good at) I was told to use the idioms of a classical author appropriate to the genre of the text. For example, if the text prescribed for translation came from a speech of Churchill, one would go to Cicero or Demosthenes. In many cases any prose writer would do, but if a piece of grammar only occurred in the poets then it was not to be used.  At Merton we all had a terrible time with trying to translate something from Proust.

What would be the equivalent for somebody ordered to provide a translation into Latin of an extract from the works of Blessed John Henry Newman (for example) for his office? In other words what counts as Ecclesiastical Latin? Somewhere in volumes iii or iv of Liturgia Horarum is a sermon by St Leo the Great which uses a grammatical construction not found in classical authors. I'll track it down later but, for the purpose of this post, it is enough to remark that Cicero and co. need not be our only models for writing Latin now.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Where got'st thou that Geese Book?

Via the Chant Café, behold the Geese Book, a Gradual from 1510, prepared for a parish in Nuremberg and now in New York.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life in the Russian wilderness

A family of Russian Old Believers, who fled to escape the Bolsheviks in 1936, are discovered by a party of geologists in 1978.
A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors' downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time. It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.
The youngest daughter of the family, Agafia Lykov, born in 1943, is still living there.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Breaking news: Australian federation abolished

In stunning news, the "indissoluble Federal Comonwealth under the Crown" of Australia has been suddenly dissolved by act of media. It has had the effect of making the Australian Senate subject to election by the Australian people as a whole. This can be shown by the announcement the Julian Assange is to stand for the Senate with no mention of in which state he will stand.

NB: If this is otherwise shown to be false then replace the previous paragraph with the following.

In boring non-news, the Australian media are thick and lazy and leave out important pieces of information.

Both Fairfax and News Ltd use the same unadapted AAP story.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apparently Star Wars got something wrong

The London Daily Telegraph today has a story illustrated by a picture with the following caption: "The "hyperdrive" featured in Star Wars enables Han Solo's Millennium Falcon spaceship to take short cuts between stars through a higher dimension of space."  I am sorry to say that I know that of all the space ships in the picture, none of them are the Millennium Falcon.

That said I was shocked, shocked, I tells you, to discover that the stretched stars from many scenes in those films are total fantasy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Paying for Church music

I used to attend Mass at parish in a suburb close to the centre of a particular city. I nearly called it "inner city" but that would suggest poverty when, in fact, the suburb was inhabited by a number of well-heeled young professionals. The land was valuable and the parish leased off part of it in return for a lucrative income.

Some bright spark thought it would be a good idea for the parish to spend some of that income on a drop-in-centre for young Catholics working in the city centre. The idea was that they would come in and socialise after work. It was an unhappy decision. The parish was not far from "downtown", but it was scarcely convenient for anyone to come after a hard day's work and before making their weary way way home. The plasma TV and attached games console were barely used and I think the centre is now closed.

It occurred to me that, in the old days (at least as far back as the later middle ages), the money would have been spent on paying for a choir. There would be stipends, and clerks, and funny titles, and the rest of it. By now it would be the name of a style to which learned musicians would allude. It might be a famous choir school.

At the Chant Café Jeffrey Tucker has a post on How to Have a Good and Stable Choir in your parish.
You need four strong singers who are committed. If you do not have that, you will not have a consistent provision of liturgical music. That’s just the way it is … People with this skill set are not willing to sing consistently without any pay whatsoever. They might do so for a while but they burn out, feel used, and eventually give up. It is all the more annoying that the priest and others look down on them when they throw in the towel, completely forgetting about the countless hours they have spent in the past without pay.
The whole post is interesting, but what really struck me were some of the comments. First some more of Tucker's post:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Uneasy lies the head that…erm…sits on the sede gestatoria

He then referred to his condition as "prisoner of opulence" in the Vatican and to the excessive pomp and ceremony that surrounded his person. "I have nothing against these good noble guards," the pope confided, "but so much bowing, such formality, so much pomp, so much parading make me suffer, believe me. When I go down [to the basilica] and see myself preceded by so many guards, I feel like a prisoner, a criminal; and instead I would like to be the 'bonus pastor' for all, close to the people…The pope is not a sovereign of this world. He recounts how much he disliked at the beginning being carried on the sede gestatoria through the rooms, preceded by cardinals often more elderly and decrepit than himself (adding that this was moreover not very reassuring for him, because ultimately one is always teetering a bit)."

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What if Pius xii had spoken out?

At the time, in the 40s, people had a firmer grasp of what was possible.

Father Rutler cites The Tablet.
In Belgium at the start of 1943, the Germans would not let Cardinal van Roey publish the Pope’s Silver Jubilee address, and the Italian government banned the film Pastor Angelicus about the life of the Pope. In that same January, the London Tablet commented on the tendency to think that more would have been accomplished by a louder protest from more bishops: "If there exists a vague atavistic memory that once Popes and Bishops spoke, and wicked Kings trembled, that salutary thing happened because the public opinion of the day had a much fuller and deeper sense of the rights and importance of spiritual authority.  Modern men, who have for so long applauded the narrowing down and emptying of that authority as the emancipation of mankind from the thralldom of superstitions, can hardly be surprised if, as a rule, prelates in the modern era tend in prudence to limit themselves to the field indubitably conceded to them by public opinion."
Be careful what you wish for, you might get it. Rutler also gives evidence of Pius' actual policy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The framing of Pius xii

In 1938 Pope Pius xii called a meeting of Bishops from all over the world to discuss what to do about Jewish refugees from Germany. The attendees were all sympathetic to the Jews but instead of doing something practical to help, they offered excuses as to why they could do nothing, with the result that we all know.

Actually that is not quite what happened. There was a conference, but it was called by someone in a position to make a real difference (separation of Church and state you see), the secular saint Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States of America.
In the summer of 1938, delegates from thirty-two countries met at the French resort of Évian. Roosevelt chose not to send a high-level official, such as the secretary of state, to Évian; instead, Myron C. Taylor, a businessman and close friend of Roosevelt's, represented the US at the conference. During the nine-day meeting, delegate after delegate rose to express sympathy for the refugees. But most countries, including the United States and Britain, offered excuses for not letting in more refugees. Responding to Évian, the German government was able to state with great pleasure how "astounding" it was that foreign countries criticized Germany for their treatment of the Jews, but none of them wanted to open the doors to them when "the opportunity offer[ed]."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Three metaphors for the price of one

On 4th December 2012 the SMH published A new monarch for Australia? from the AAP. The article discusses the expectations of the child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Although the only way to abolish the Australian constitutional monarchy short of armed revolution is by referendum, and although the Australian people have never voted Yes to a proposal to which they have already voted No, and although the Australian people voted No to a republic in the referendum of 1999, still for some reason our local monarchy-abolishers are supposed to be relevant.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On hating the Sermon on the Mount

Beware the blogroll of the wise – it can lead you far away from where you thought you were going. Through one of the sites in my RSS feeds I stumbled across the blog of Andy Naselli, an Evangelical theologian in (where else?) the United States.

One of his top posts of 2012 was about the reaction of unreligious people to the Sermon on the Mount. He was prompted by a conference talk on Exodus 19 by Timothy Keller, a presbyterian pastor in Manhattan.